CLEVELAND — A 65-57 loss at Cleveland Central Catholic on Tuesday night might not seem that impressive of a result for Elyria Catholic.
However, just ask the fans that made the trip to St. Stan’s Social Center in Cleveland’s historic Slavic Village how close the Panthers came to pulling off the upset against the Division II Ironmen, a team that has its sights set on Columbus.
After trailing by 10 in the second quarter, Elyria Catholic (7-7) switched to a 2-3 zone that slowed down and frustrated the Ironmen. That gave Edward Wright and Branson Taylor a chance to get the Panthers back in rhythm offensively, and they eventually came back and tied the game on a 3-pointer by Wright with 4:39 remaining.
It was one of six 3-pointers for Wright, who was the game’s leading scorer with 20 points.
“When we go into games people tend to focus on Branson and our big guys, so they left me open and I was making my shots,” Wright said. “We wanted to be really aggressive on defense and get them out of their comfort zone because we know good defense creates offense.
“It was great to see that we could perform at that level and turn up our intensity as a team. We haven’t done that in some games but tonight we played well.”
While the Panthers weren’t going out of their way to sugarcoat a loss, the fact they were able to compete with a 9-5 Central Catholic team that already has wins against St. Ignatius, Cleveland Heights and Solon has coach Rob Palmer excited about what his team can do over the final eight games of the season and heading into the Division III postseason.
“I know there’s no such thing as moral victories but there was a bit of a moral victory tonight in the way we continued to come back on that team,” Palmer said. “They couldn’t put us away. We’re maturing as a team right now and we’re understanding who we are. It’s been kind of obvious over the past few games that we’re building momentum towards good things.”
Central Catholic benefited by going to the free throw line 24 times while the Panthers shot just three free throws. It should be noted though that 10 of those Ironmen free throws came in the final 90 seconds as Elyria Catholic was forced to foul to stop the clock.
Taylor, a 6-foot-8 center, won the battle of the big men, scoring 17 points compared to 14 for Central Catholic’s Deshawn Nettles, a 6-8 forward. Taylor also pulled down 13 rebounds.
“We were able to slow them down but we wanted to be able to run with them,” Taylor said. “We’re really a fast-paced team and they are, too. What we did was slow them down to the pace where we could be most effective. This game is a step in the right direction. A couple of weeks ago we were down, now we’re really moving forward.”
With leading scorer Jarred Logan in early foul trouble and held to four points before fouling out with 59.9 seconds to play, the Panthers got huge contributions from Connor Trockley, who scored eight points, all in the first half, and Eli Palmer, who came off the bench to score five points in the fourth quarter.
“All year long we’ve said our strength is in numbers,” Palmer said. “We’re deep coming off the bench. But make no mistake about it Jarred Logan had the courage to play hard tonight. Look at the leadership he showed tonight. … He didn’t trying to save that last foul. He did what he had to do for the team. The reason why Connor and Eli and Edward had these good games is they vibe off of Jarred’s energy.”
Cleveland Central Catholic 65, Elyria Catholic 57
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (57): Jarred Logan 2-0-4, Jack Griffin 1-0-3, Eli Palmer 2-0-5, Edward Wright 7-0-20, Connor Trockley 3-1-8, David Griffin 1-0-2, Branson Taylor 7-1-15. Totals 23-2-57.
CLEVELAND CENTRAL CATHOLIC (65): Tevin Jackson 2-7-12, Arthur Fayne 3-1-9, Jaden Williams 0-1-1, Rayshawn Ford 1-2-4, Taryl Davis 3-2-8, Charles Kunckles 3-0-9, Terran Mack 1-0-2, Trevon Wells 1-2-4, Kyle Robinson 1-0-2, Deshawn Nettles 6-2-14. Totals 21-17-65.
EC 15 12 15 15 — 57
CCC 22 13 11 19 — 65
Three-point goals: Elyria Catholic 9 (Wright 6, Trockley, J. Griffin, Palmer), Cleveland Central Catholic 6 (Knuckles 3, Fayne 2, Jackson). Field goals: Elyria Catholic 23-59 (39 percent), Cleveland Central Catholic 21-56 (37 percent). Free throws: Elyria Catholic 2-3 (67 percent), Cleveland Central Catholic 17-24 (71 percent). Rebounds: Elyria Catholic 29, Cleveland Central Catholic 47. Turnovers: Elyria Catholic 16, Cleveland Central Catholic 15. Total fouls: Elyria Catholic 18, Cleveland Central Catholic 9. Fouled out: Logan
Junior varsity: CCC, 55-41